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I don't know much except that I remember Prince Henry the Navigator from High School. Go to Google.com and search books for Portuguese navigators.
There is a book out now entitled 1434 by Gavin Menzies that is about a Chinese fleet that sailed to Italy in 1434.
Columbus of course made his famous voyages in the early modern period.
English fishing fleets were fishing off of New Foundland before the voyages of Columbus, but they never went ashore, or at least never claimed to have discovered anything new, like Columbus who claimed to have discovered a new route to India, or others who followed Columbus who claimed he had discovered a new world (which he had--new to Europeans).
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